1 Institute of Synergetic and Psychotherapy Research, PMU Paracelsus Medical University, Ignaz Harrer Street 79, Salzburg, Austria
2 Medical University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria
3 Medical University of Graz, Clinic for Psychiatry, Graz, Austria
4 Ameos Clinika SommersbergerseestraBe 395, 8990 Bad Aussee, Austria
Bullying and peer victimization are important, yet underestimated public health issues.
Data were obtained in a sample of N=3454 children at the age of 12.6 (+/- 1.3) in Austria. 75% of the participants were not involved in bullying (uninvolved), 16% were victims, 4% bully/victims and 5% bullies. We applied a multivariate regression model relating to gender, established a classification into bullying and victimization, and investigated parental behavior, family characteristics, physical or mental illness of a parent, as well as internalizing symptoms of pupils.
Our data analysis demonstrated gender-related effects and the development of internalizing symptoms: Boys showed fewer internalizing symptoms than girls. Pupils with low perceived parental support displayed higher symptomatic scores. The variables of family break-up and parental health led to similar observations. Victims have an approximately 30% higher score on the internalizing scale than bullies and 60% higher scores than uninvolved. The results of the regression model indicated that these predictors explained 25% of the variance.
School policies, teachers, parents, the media, school physicians, as well as GPs must recognize early warning signs of bullying and diligently assess risk behaviors. Early social support (by parents and teachers) is discussed as an important protective factor.
Keywords: Bullying, Peer victimization, Social support, Mental health, Child and adolescent health.
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